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Tool for Inspecting Alignment of Twinaxial Connectors

Misalignment can be detected before damage is done. A proposed tool would be used to inspect alignments of mating twinaxial-connector assemblies on interconnecting wiring harnesses. More specifically, the tool would be used to inspect the alignment of each contact pin of each connector on one assembly with the corresponding socket in the corresponding connector on the other assembly. It is necessary to inspect the alignment because if mating of the assemblies is attempted when any pin/socket pair is misaligned beyond tolerance, the connection will not be completed and the dielectric material in the socket will be damaged (see Figure 1).

Posted in: Mechanics, Briefs

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NASA’s First “A”: A Legacy of Aeronautics Innovations

NASA’s predecessor agency, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA), began a legacy of aeronautical innovation that continues today. While much of the focus of NASA’s first 50 years has been on the space-related achievements of the agency, it is the first “A” of the NASA acronym — aeronautics — that has resulted in many of the technologies that got the Apollo missions to the Moon, and that continue to improve our air travel safety today.

Posted in: Articles

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An ATP System for Deep-Space Optical Communication

An acquisition, tracking, and pointing (ATP) system is proposed for aiming an optical- communications downlink laser beam from deep space. In providing for a direction reference, the concept exploits the mature technology of star trackers to eliminate the need for a costly and potentially hazardous laser beacon. The system would include one optical and two inertial sensors, each contributing primarily to a different portion of the frequency spectrum of the pointing signal: a star tracker (<10 Hz), a gyroscope (<50 Hz), and a precise fluid-rotor inertial angular-displacement sensor (sometimes called, simply, “angle sensor”) for the frequency range >50 Hz. The outputs of these sensors would be combined in an iterative averaging process to obtain high- bandwidth, high-accuracy pointing knowledge. The accuracy of pointing knowledge obtainable by use of the system was estimated on the basis of an 8-cm-diameter telescope and known parameters of commercially available star trackers and inertial sensors: The single-axis pointing-knowledge error was found to be characterized by a standard deviation of 150 nanoradians — below the maximum value (between 200 and 300 nanoradians) likely to be tolerable in deep-space optical communications.

Posted in: Briefs

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Polar Traverse Rover Instrument

A Polar Traverse Rover (PTR) is a device designed to determine the role of Antarctica in the global climate system by determining typical paths of continental air that passes the South Pole, and by obtaining insight into the relationship between events at the Antarctic and the meteorology of sub- polar altitudes. The PTR is a 2-m-diameter ball in which an Iridium modem, with an integrated global positioning system (GPS) receiver and a commercial lithium battery pack, is suspended. The modem is attached to an aluminum plate and is surrounded by shock-absorbing plastic for protection. This core is attached to the interior walls of the shell by strings on three axis points. The unit’s total weight is 10 kg, and it returns data regarding location, altitude, ground velocity, and vertical velocity.

Posted in: Briefs

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Detecting Phycocyanin-Pigmented Microbes in Reflected Light

Concentrations are estimated from ratios between spectral radiances. A recently invented method of measuring concentrations of phycocynanin- pigmented algae and bacteria in water is based on measurement of the spectrum of reflected sunlight. When present in sufficiently high concentrations, phycocynanin- pigmented microorganisms can be hazardous to the health of humans who use, and of animals that depend on, an affected body of water. The present method is intended to satisfy a need for a rapid, convenient means of detecting hazardous concentrations of phycocynanin-pigmented microorganisms. Rapid detection will speed up the issuance of public health warnings and performance of corrective actions.

Posted in: Briefs, TSP

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Expert System Control of Plant Growth in an Enclosed Space

An adjustable environment optimizes growth while minimizing consumption of resources. The Expert System is an enclosed, controlled environment for growing plants, which incorporates a computerized, knowledge-based software program that is designed to capture the knowledge, experience, and problem-solving skills of one or more human experts in a particular discipline. The Expert System is trained to analyze crop/plant status, to monitor the condition of the plants and the environment, and to adjust operational parameters to optimize the plant-growth process. This system is intended to provide a way to remotely control plant growth with little or no human intervention. More specifically, the term “control” implies an autonomous method for detecting plant states such as health (biomass) or stress and then for recommending and implementing cultivation and/or remediation to optimize plant growth and to minimize consumption of energy and nutrients. Because of difficulties associated with delivering energy and nutrients remotely, a key feature of this Expert System is its ability to minimize this effort and to achieve optimum growth while taking into account the diverse range of environmental considerations that exist in an enclosed environment.

Posted in: Briefs

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NASA Technology: The Next 50 Years

“Space exploration is all about inspiration, innovation, and discovery. It’s about imagining the future. It’s about taking new steps, and exploring beyond our limitations, and creating something bigger and grander and better than ourselves. Along the way, there are countless benefits, invaluable discoveries, and technologies borne through the trials of exploration that enhance our lives on Earth. That’s been true for NASA’s first 50 years. And I have no doubt that it will be true in the next five decades.” -NASA Deputy Administrator Shana Dale

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